News / Europe

Pilot Flies at Night in a Solar-Powered Plane

TEXT SIZE - +

A pioneering pilot is flying at night, after flying all through the day.  The catch?  He is in the cockpit of a solar-powered plane, with the aim of flying through the night until the sun rises Thursday. So far, pilot Andre Borschberg awaits dawn aboard the Solar Impulse HB-SIA aircraft.

Propellers whirred on the slim airplane's long wings as Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg set out to make history by flying a solar-powered airplane through day and night, without fuel.

Speaking through a headset from the cockpit after takeoff Wednesday morning in Payerne, Switzerland, Borschberg could barely contain a smile.

"It was very special, you know.  That's the moment, I think, that everybody has been waiting for since now almost seven years and thinking about it -- I don't want to say every day -- but almost.  That's a very, very important milestone for the project.  I guess everybody was excited, but I was very excited, too," he said.

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA is a single-seater, solar-powered plane.  Its wings are as long as those of an Airbus A340 -- a whopping 63 meters -- and the top side of those wings are covered with a skin of solar cells.  During daylight hours Wednesday, the plane took in the sun's rays though 12,000 solar panels and charged the plane's 400 kilograms of batteries.  

The goal is for plane to keep its motors running through the night using the energy stored inside those batteries.

Borschberg said he was thrilled to be in the cockpit of a plane that was producing more energy than it was consuming.  And he is not simply the pilot for this solar-powered mission.  He is also Solar Impulse's chief executive officer.

The mission has not been without its setbacks.  The Solar Impulse team had planned for a night flight last week, but they had to postpone that takeoff when a critical piece of equipment malfunctioned.  At that time, the founders of the project, Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, expressed their disappointment as well as their hope.

"You have to understand that the airplane is completely experimental.  It is the type of airplane that has never flown in the past, so we need to assist the pilot from the ground, but we also need to assist the airplane itself," said Solar Impulse Chairman Piccard.

He explained that high-tech equipment transmits data from the plane to a team on the ground. That equipment, like everything on the 1,600 kilogram aircraft, is lightweight.  And, he added, the equipment records, in his words, "absolutely everything."  "The team will know about vibrations in the wings, about the position of the flight controls, about the efficiency of the solar cells, all the energy that gets in, all the energy that gets out," he said.

Piccard initiated the project in 1999, setting his sights on such solar-powered flight after he circumnavigated the world in a balloon.  He said the Solar Impulse illustrates the potential of clean technologies and renewable energy.   

The Solar Impulse team says Borschberg and the carbon fiber plane spent all day Wednesday slowly ascending to an altitude of 8,700 meters -- 200 meters higher than planned.  Roughly two hours before sunset Wednesday evening, the sun's rays were no longer strong enough to supply the solar cells with energy.  As planned, the plane began a slow descent, with the goal of maintaining an altitude of 1,500 meters until sunrise.  

In its test flights, the plane managed to stay aloft for 14 hours.  It has already surpassed that record with this flight.  

And, if the mission is successful, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA will be the first plane to ever harness the power of the sun to fly through the night.

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid